asbestos exposure

Asbestos Exposure

Serious Risk from Asbestos Exposure

The U.S. Geological Survey reports that asbestos continues to be imported for use in friction products (e.g., brakes and clutches), roofing products, gaskets, and thermal insulation. Construction workers are at particular risk of asbestos exposure. Workers in the asbestos removal industry are also potentially exposed. Industrial maintenance personnel are at risk when they repair equipment that is insulated with asbestos-containing material, as are automotive service personnel involved in brake and clutch repair work.

Workplace exposure to asbestos is a serious occupational health problem in the United States. As many as eight million workers have been exposed to asbestos. In 1991, NIOSH estimated that nearly 700,000 workers in general industry remained potentially exposed to asbestos. That estimate did not even include mining, railroad work, agriculture, and several other industry sectors.

In addition, "take-home" exposure, exposure involving family members of workers who bring asbestos home on their hair, clothing, or shoes, is a well-recognized hazard and was addressed in a 1995 NIOSH report to Congress (Report).


Substantial Deaths due to Asbestos Exposure

There are an ever increasing number of deaths from asbestosis,mesothelioma (a type of cancer caused from asbestos exposure) and silicosis. There were more than 1200 deaths associated with asbestosis and mesothelioma in 1998.


Diseases Related to Asbestos Exposure

Asbestosis is a disease characterized by scarring of the alveolar regions of the lungs.

Lung cancer can be caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is one of the leading causes of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissue lining the chest or abdomen for which asbestos and similar fibers are the only known cause.

Nonmalignant pleural disease can appear as a painful accumulation of bloody fluid surrounding the lungs. It's more commonly is seen as a thick and sometimes constricting scarring of the tissue surrounding the lungs.

Asbestos exposure is also associated with excess mortality due to cancer of the larynx and cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. The malignant diseases (cancers including mesothelioma) are often fatal within a year or a few years of initial diagnosis, whereas asbestosis deaths typically occur only after many years of suffering from impaired breathing.


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